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Rethinking Orphic ‘Bookishness’: Text and Performance in Classical Mystery Religion

Rethinking Orphic ‘Bookishness’: Text and Performance in Classical Mystery Religion AbstractThe mythical singer Orpheus was credited as the proto-founder of private Dionysiac initiations in Classical Greece, and written hexameter poems attributed to his authorship played an important role in these cults. Since at least the nineteenth century, classical scholars have identified this “bookish” orientation as a defining feature of Orphism. This article approaches Orphic texts using the analytical tools of “material religion” and argues that Orphic textuality is best understood as a medial extension of poetic performance. Like musical-poetic performers, ritual experts drew authority in part from mimêsis of legendary archetypes (Orpheus, Musaeus, Melampus, etc.), and part of the physical text’s function was to make this identification believable for performers in Orphic cults and other low-level genres. In the Derveni Papyrus, however, the book enables a rejection of performance-based expertise in favor of an authority based on textual exegesis. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Archiv für Religionsgeschichte de Gruyter

Rethinking Orphic ‘Bookishness’: Text and Performance in Classical Mystery Religion

Archiv für Religionsgeschichte , Volume 21-22 (1): 17 – Dec 2, 2020

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Publisher
de Gruyter
Copyright
© 2020 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston
ISSN
1868-8888
eISSN
1868-8888
DOI
10.1515/arege-2020-0010
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

AbstractThe mythical singer Orpheus was credited as the proto-founder of private Dionysiac initiations in Classical Greece, and written hexameter poems attributed to his authorship played an important role in these cults. Since at least the nineteenth century, classical scholars have identified this “bookish” orientation as a defining feature of Orphism. This article approaches Orphic texts using the analytical tools of “material religion” and argues that Orphic textuality is best understood as a medial extension of poetic performance. Like musical-poetic performers, ritual experts drew authority in part from mimêsis of legendary archetypes (Orpheus, Musaeus, Melampus, etc.), and part of the physical text’s function was to make this identification believable for performers in Orphic cults and other low-level genres. In the Derveni Papyrus, however, the book enables a rejection of performance-based expertise in favor of an authority based on textual exegesis.

Journal

Archiv für Religionsgeschichtede Gruyter

Published: Dec 2, 2020

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